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An Ottoman professor of botany: Salih Efendi (1817-1895) and his contributions to botanical education

Feza Günergun - Asuman Baytop

Although botany was not included in the curriculum of the medrese, the classical Ottoman institution of learning and education, the Ottomans were acquainted with botanical knowledge, especially with the properties of medicinal plants through the translations based on Ibn el-Baithar's El-Müfredat (Traité des Simples), Dioscorides' Materia Medica or Avicenna's Kitab el-Nebat (Book of Plants).

The teaching of botany started in Turkey within the medical education in the first half of the nineteenth century. In the early years of Tıphane-i Amire (State School of Medicine, est. 1827), the Turkish and Arabic names of plants were taught to the first year students. In 1834, a course titled İlm-i Nebat (Botany) had been added to the program of the fourth year. In the Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Şahane (Imperial School of Medicine) established in 1839, botany was initially lectured in the first grade by the Austrian physician Dr.C.A. Bernard, director of the same school. As the teaching was in French, botany courses were also given in French and Dr. Bernard's book Elémens de Botanique (1842) was used by the students. This book, written in French, on the basis of A.Richard's system, is the first textbook of medical botany published in Turkey .

The teaching of botany at the Imperial School of Medicine was carried on by Salih Efendi, a meticulous and diligent student of Dr. Bernard. Indeed, Salih Efendi started teaching "Ilm-i Nebatat" (Botany) even before graduating and took part in the establishment of a botanical garden within the school. In 1843 he was among the first graduates of the Imperial School of Medicine and received the title of "Docteur en Médicine et en Chirurgie". After C.A.Bernard's death in 1844, he was appointed to teach botany at the Imperial School of Medicine.

In addition to his post as professor at the Imperial School of Medicine, Salih Efendi was appointed as the "Hekimbaşı" (the chief physician) to the Sultan. He was also appointed twice to the directorship of the Imperial School of Medicine in the years 1849 and 1865. He also served as a councillor to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Trade as well as member and chairman of various state offices and assemblies. He chaired the International Health Congress held in Istanbul in 1865. He received the "Bâlâ" degree and was conferred with medals of honour by foreign states such as France , Prussia , Portugal , and Spain .

Despite his several administrative posts, Salih Efendi never gave up teaching botany. He translated a book on natural sciences in 1865 and prepared its second edition in 1872. After being retired from the Imperial School of Medicine, he carried on lecturing botany for many years at the Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Mülkiye (Civil School of Medicine). He gave natural history courses at Darülmuallimin and Darülfünun, Ottoman institutions founded for training teachers and the general public. He arranged the garden of his house in Anadoluhisarı as a botanical garden and grew various kinds of plants and fruit trees. He died in 1895 in this house which is still one of the most beautiful waterside residences on the Bosphorus.

The aim of this paper is two-fold. The first is to introduce Salih Efendi, an Ottoman physician and buraucrate reknown for his keen interest in plants and his contributions to the teaching of modern botany in Ottoman Turkey. The second is to review briefly the botanical section of Salih Efendi's book İlm-i Hayvanat ve Nebatat (Zoology and Botany, first printed in 1865) to find out the original book it was translated from; and then to bring to light its second modified edition made in 1872.

As far as we know, the botanical section of İlm-i Hayvanat ve Nebatat is the first illustrated text on systematic botany published in Turkish. Beside, it is the first book in Turkish used in the teaching of botany. Salih Efendi probably used this book in the botany courses he gave at the Civil School of Medicine (est. 1867) and in the natural history courses he taught in the Darülfünun.

İlm-i Hayvanat ve Nebatat (1865) consists of 90 pages and 25 plates with illustrations. As Salih Efendi explains in the foreword, the book contains a lot of illustrations and the text is rather short, for it was intended for general use and especially as a textbook for secondary schools. 54 pages (p. 4-57) are devoted to the zoology and the last 32 pages (p.58-89) deal with botany. Annexed to the text, there are 18 plates (plates 1-18 including 184 figures) about animals and 7 plates (plates 19-25 with 106 figures) on plants. The total number of figures in the plates are 290. Under each figure, the Latin name of the plant in the Latin and Arabic characters, its Turkish name and Turkish family name are given. If any figures of plant sections are added, these are also explained.

After a brief introduction, where subject matters of zoology, botany and mineralogy are discussed, comes a chapter on general botany where cells, tissues, the vegetative organs (root, stem and leaves) and sexual organs are discussed. The French names in Latin characters of these organs and tissues together with their Turkish names are given. The number of French terms in the whole book is around 70. In the following pages (p.69-89) artificial and natural classifications of plants are discussed and the systems of Linné and Jussieu are introduced.

Research we made at Heidelberg University Library in June 1995, enabled us to determine that the book translated by Salih Efendi was Dr. Carl Arendts' (1815-1881) Éléments d'Histoire et de Technologie à l'Usage de la Jeunesse. The latter was translated into French by Dr. Royer from the Arendts' Naturhistorischer Schulatlas. When Arendts' French edition is compared to İlm-i Hayvanat ve Nebatat, it is clear that Salih Efendi translated only the zoology and botany sections and added the related 25 plates to the end his translation.

İlm-i Hayvanat ve Nebatat (1865) was republished seven years later in 1872 in İstanbul. The 1872 edition starts directly with a chapter titled "Usul-i Menakıb-ı Tabiiyat" meaning natural sciences. As this title entered the library and book catalogues as the title of the book, it has not been realized that this was a new edition of İlm-i Hayvanat ve Nebatat (1865) and was regarded as a distinct work by Salih Efendi. Thus we introduce here this second book of Salih Efendi's, dated 1872, to the botany literature as the second edition of İlm-i Hayvanat ve Nebatat.

When the two editions are compared, the first point that strikes the reader is that the all Latin and French botanic terms written in Latin characters in the first edition are eliminated in the second. Secondly, there is a preference to use Turkish syntax instead of the arabic one. The removal of the French and Latin equivalents of Ottoman botanic terms from the text by Salih Efendi should be evaluated within the attempts undertaken by Turkish physicians to establish the medical education in Turkish. The second edition of Salih Efendi's book came out just at the time of serious discussions between the Turcophone and Francophone physicians. The elimination of French and Latin terms by Salih Efendi reflects the support he brought to the medical teaching in Turkish.

Salih Efendi, reflects perfectly the cultural and scientific transformation which occured in the Ottoman world throughout 19th century. Born in the second decade of this century, he probably was educated in the Medrese, the classical Ottoman institution of learning where he excelled in Arabic. He studied in the Imperial School of Medicine founded in 1839 where the teaching was in French.

His duties in educational institutions, as well as the lack of a botany book in Turkish, led him to write a book focusing on general and specific features as well as introducing the important principles of botany. The translation he made from C.Arendts' book on natural history is published in Istanbul in 1865. It contains the first Turkish text on systematic botany. The second edition made in 1872 represents the change occured in the teaching language in medical education where Turkish replaced French. In coining new scientific terms, he followed his contemporaries by using Arabic vocabulary. Thus Salih Efendi's career is a concrete example illustrating the transformation in which Islamic and European scientific


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